As we know, the recent increases in crimes committed with a firearm, gang activity, and homicides in our communities and cities require our urgent attention. A review of our firearms laws in Canada is long overdue, and Bill C-71 contains practical and balanced reforms that will help us achieve that.
We began by proposing mandatory criminal background checks as well as stricter controls for transporting restricted or prohibited firearms.
We began by proposing to remove the Governor in Council's authority to downgrade the classification of a firearm contrary to what is provided in the definition under the Criminal Code, thereby reclassifying some firearms in the prohibited weapons category, and then by limiting their authorized transfer through grandfathering.
We began by restoring a consistent approach to classification and by creating a bill that will help combat the problem of unauthorized access to firearms.
All of these reforms are about putting public safety first, and about making this bill enforceable and reasonable for responsible gun owners. These reforms are not about restoring the federal long gun registry. The committee agreed to add a provision that clarifies this exact point. The reforms also do not add any unreasonable measures for gun owners and retailers.
Hon. members in the House are calling on the federal government to look at how banned weapons get into the hands of organized crime, and this is exactly what the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction is responsible for. That is his job.
These reforms will stop guns from getting into the wrong hands and will help keep our communities safe. The bill we are debating today has been strengthened and improved by the comments and recommendations of my colleagues in the House, as well as the testimony of the many experts we heard in committee.
I would like to talk about how each party contributed to designing a bill that is able to do more.
As an aside, I want to mention that my brother is a gun enthusiast. He has his licence, and we talk about this topic every time we go for dinner at our mother's house.
First, the parties proposed enhancing background checks of firearms licence applicants, and the Liberal Party and Green Party amendments to that effect were adopted in committee with the agreement of the Conservative Party and NDP members. These amendments mean that from now on, specific additional checks will be done over the lifetime of a firearms licence applicant.
All parties agreed that if an applicant has a history of threatening behaviour or poses a risk of causing harm to himself or others, these factors must absolutely be taken into consideration in evaluating the application.
We now have a bill that expressly states, in no uncertain terms, that an individual's threatening behaviour must be taken into account in determining that individual's eligibility for a licence. What is more, the amendments that all parties agreed to contributed to expressly take into account whether the individual was or was not subject to a previous order prohibiting the possession of firearms in connection with violence against an intimate partner or former intimate partner. The bill now clearly indicates that threats of violence and threatening behaviour can include those communicated on the Internet or any other digital network.
This amendment responds to a serious and growing problem. Online harassment and hate, including threats of violence, have unfortunately become all too common in 2018. This is a disturbing trend that disproportionately affects women, racialized persons and LGBTQ people, and it gives way to racism, sexism, and intolerance in our daily lives.
According to Statistics Canada, one in six Internet users reported seeing content that promotes hate or violence, and 7% of these people have experienced it. Enforcement has focused on how to address this problem. Canadians from all walks of life are concerned about violent threats at a time when our lives depend on the use of the Internet.
With this amendment we can assure Canadians that the assessment of eligibility for a firearms licence will take into consideration threatening behaviour. This represents a reasonable and modern approach that will prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands.
I will cite some other amendments, moved by the different parties, that were adopted.
The Conservative amendment to section 1 would specify that the government will not reintroduce the federal long-gun registry. There is nothing in the bill to that effect and therefore that is quite fair.
The NDP's amendment makes a practical precision to the rules on transferring non-restricted firearms. The law will state that a reference number confirming the validity of the licence may apply to one transaction including the transfer of one or more unrestricted firearms. Clause 5 already sets out the conditions for transferring a non-restricted firearm, and it already includes the conditions for transferring more than one non-restricted firearm. However, the amended bill clarifies that if the licence and reference number are valid, people are free to transfer ownership of more than one non-restricted firearm.
I thank all parties for their work on this bill. It will be an improvement.
Once the bill is passed, if people plan to sell or give a non-restricted firearm, they will have to make sure that the person receiving it has a valid licence. They will also have to confirm with the RCMP's Canadian firearms program that the licence is valid, which will take just a few minutes.
Under the new law, the authorities who decide whether to issue a permit will also have to take into account an individual's entire record of certain types of criminal activities and violent behaviours, not just those of the previous five years.
It is already a best practice to include certain pieces of information in non-restricted firearm records, and we will support that practice by making it a legal obligation. Records will have to include the licence verification reference number issued by the registrar of firearms. They must also include the transferee's licence number and the date. Records will include information about the firearm being transferred, such as the serial number, date of manufacture, model and type. Firearms vendors must keep these records for at least 20 years. To be clear, businesses, not the government, will keep these records. It is already common practice for businesses to have these records and keep this kind of inventory. This bill will simply make that practice mandatory.
This new measure will guarantee that firearms are sold only to people with a valid licence, which will help save time and resources when it comes to enforcing the law. What is more, it will better support criminal investigations by providing the police with a tool that will make it easier to track non-restricted firearms that were used to commit a crime and to identify suspects of firearms offences. That will facilitate investigations and provide evidence that could help secure a conviction.
We are making these proposals with due consideration for privacy. Law enforcement agencies will not have any special powers in this regard. They will have to continue to operate under existing laws. All of this is supported by a consistent approach to firearms classification and safe and legal transportation requirements.
These proposals are effective measures that will enhance public safety and yet will still be fair and manageable for firearms owners and merchants.